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Locking Tuner Reviews: Planet Waves VS Gotoh VS Schaller
Published by firejack018
06-04-2010
Author review
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Locking Tuner Reviews: Planet Waves VS Gotoh VS Schaller

Just thought I'd post my head-to-head review of Planet Waves, Gotoh Magnum and Schaller Mini locking tuners here.
For simplicity sake and because they are all great in their own respect with only subtle cosmetic and functional differences, I score them all the same.
But to find out about these subtle differences and which brand I marginally prefer, read on...



My first foray into locking tuners was with the Schaller Minis after reading the review here by "yellowv" (BTW thanks for your assistance my friend ).
I now have 3 different brands of locking tuners in some of my guitars and thought I'd comment on how they compare.

My Edwards Sykes LP has the Planet Waves.
My Ibanez PGM301 has the Gotoh Magnums
And my PRS SE Korina has the Schaller Minis.


PLANET WAVES LOCKING TUNERS:



The Planet Waves are excellent.
Installation was a breeze, and they are dead simple to use.
The thumbscrew system is a winner for me.
They lock the strings in instantly and there is zero string-stretching required.
The tuning shifts a fraction for the first few string bends and hard strums, and then locks down solid.

I thought the built-in string cutting mechanism was going to be a silly gimmick, but it's actually quite handy.
Makes for the fastest string changes of the 3 brands (by a whisker).

One thing that might concern some people is the added weight that the thumbscrew-type mechanisms add to the headstock.
It's not a drastic change but it is noticeable.
It doesn't bother me at all though.

My main concern with the Planet Waves is the appearance.
Luckily they actually look quite good on my all-black & chrome Sykes LP, but on a different color the results mightn't look so pleasing.

Another thing is that the Planet Waves string posts are the same height as a standard tuner's string posts.
They don't take advantage of the fact that you don't need the extra length due to no longer having to wind the string around the post a few times.


PROS:
-Automatic string-cutting feature is really quite handy.
-Fastest string changing of the three brands.
-Near-instantaneous tuning stability.
-Silky-smooth tuning action.


CONS:
-Might not suit some guitars due to their mix of black & chrome with white insignia.
-Added weight to headstock as they are slightly heavier than standard tuners.
-Unlike the Gotoh and Schaller, they don't pull the strings down further than a standard tuner.




GOTOH MAGNUM LOCKING TUNERS:



The Gotoh were my least favorite.
I found them slightly more finicky to install than the Planet Waves and Schallers due to the different locking mechanism.
The mechanism turns with the socket-tool when screwing the string-clamping section of the tuner through the headstock and onto the gear mechanism of the tuner (only a slight niggle, and admittedly I probably only found it irritating because of the extremely simple experience installing the other 2 brands).

They are also slightly more complicated and fidgety to operate when changing strings.
You have to unlock the locking mechanism with a coin or screw driver, set the hole for the string to go through, pull the string very tight and then wind like a madman until the string locks in place automatically.
Finally, after you've wound quite a few times and the string has locked in place, you can tune the string up to pitch.
This is still a lot faster than a standard tuner, but compared to the thumb-screw type tuners it is a noticeably slower procedure.

Now here is my biggest gripe about the Gotoh's...
The tuning wandered around for a long time.
It wasn't until the next day that the strings finally settled and tuning stability locked down.
I restrung with each brand of locking tuner exactly the same way without stretching the strings, and yet the other 2 brands stabilized the tuning almost immediately.
It also wasn't caused by the weather, as I kept switching between guitars during the testing period.

On the plus side, the Gotoh Magnums look no different from the standard Gotoh tuners that were already on the guitar, so the guitar's appearance hasn't changed at all and there is no added weight to the headstock.
The added weight of the thumbscrew-type tuners doesn't bother me at all, but it might be something to consider if you are shopping around for locking tuners.
Also, the Gotohs bring the strings down a bit closer to the headstock.
This seems to add a fraction more punch and sustain.


PROS:
-Plain aesthetics enable them to blend in and not change the guitar's appearance.
-No added weight to headstock as they weigh almost the same as standard tuners.
-Pull strings closer to headstock than normal tuners.
-Silky-smooth tuning action.


CONS:
-Finicky locking mechanism.
-String changes not as fast as the thumbscrew-type locking tuners.
-Tuning seems to drift for quite a bit longer than the thumbscrew-type locking tuners.




SCHALLER MINI LOCKING TUNERS:



These are my favorite locking tuner and I have ordered two more sets for my other two PRS SE guitars (again, thanks to forumite "yellowv" for helping a brother out ).
Installation is just too easy.
They are a joy to use and make for lightning fast, fuss-free string changes (just a fraction slower than the Planet Waves due to having to cut the string manually).
I find the thumbscrew mechanism is just hands down the best locking system by far.

The biggest drawcard for me is the Schaller's classy appearance.
They would suit any type of guitar and seem to add something to the overall look of the guitar without being too noticeable.
They also have the shorter string posts that pull the strings down closer to the headstock.

Like the Planet Waves, the Schallers stabilize the tuning almost instantly.
Just a few quick bends, a few strums and only minutes later the tuning is rock solid.

But also like the Planet Waves, the Schallers add a bit of weight to the headstock.
Again, that doesn't bother me in the slightest... but as I said before it might be something for you to consider when deciding which brand to go with.


PROS:
-Lightning fast string changes.
-Near-instantaneous tuning stability.
-Look great on any guitar.
-Plain aesthetics enable them to blend in and not change the guitar's appearance.
-Pull strings down closer to headstock than normal tuners.
-Silky-smooth tuning action.


CONS:
-Added weight to headstock as they are slightly heavier than standard tuners.




SUMMARY:
All 3 tuners have their own strengths and weaknesses.
But most importantly they all operate very smoothly and eventually keep the tuning stability rock solid.
You can't go wrong with either brand.
They are each a big improvement over standard tuners.

For my tastes and preferences...
The Schaller's win with their elegant appearance and short string post.
The Planet Waves are a close second due to their busy appearance and taller string posts.
The Gotohs do a great job also, but by comparison have a clumsy locking mechanism and seemed to take a little longer to stabilize the tuning.


Here's a final pic of the difference in height of the locking tuners with the shorter string posts vs the standard tuners:

  #1  
By eaeolian on 06-04-2010, 11:16 AM
Nice review. I use the Planet Waves (along with Sperzels) myself.
  #2  
By firejack018 on 06-04-2010, 11:37 AM
Whoa you were fast!
Thanks mate.
  #3  
By Mr Incredible on 06-04-2010, 01:12 PM
Thanks for the review. The Gotohs are my least favorite too. My favorite are Grovers minis followed closely by Sperzels, but I haven't tried the Planet Waves (mostly because the string trimming seems unnecessary). I'll reconsider the Planet Waves.
  #4  
By Razorgrin on 06-08-2010, 09:12 PM
Thanks, man. I've been thinking of getting a set of aftermarket locking tuners for an Agile 8 and the Planet Waves ones sound perfect. Now I just have to find somebody who'll sell me two extras...
  #5  
By darren on 06-08-2010, 09:34 PM
Great review! I had Schallers on my JP7 and they were my favourite as well.
  #6  
By Hammy on 06-09-2010, 02:33 AM
Every guitar that enters Hammy-Realm gets Sperzels thrown on em!

They just work, for me atleast. Schaller follows, but Sperzel gives you that extra 'you-sooo-special' feeling sitting on your guitar


Nice review mate!
  #7  
By thedeadeye on 11-29-2010, 10:14 AM
When I bought my Ibanez RGA121 used, it had Planet Waves installed. Like you, I didn't much like the chrome on black and preferred Cosmo Black. The locking knobs are much thinner than the knurled Schaller and I had trouble getting them tight enough. My high E actually slipped out once and I had to tighten it with pliers. The auto-trim feature is OK IF you get the string tight enough the 1st time. With the manual trimming, you can leave a little more string in case you have to remove the strings to do any work to your guitar and put them back on.

I bought Schallers after seeing them on an American Strat. The screw hole can be reused but as you probably know the tuner body is 9.8mm vs. the 10mm hole in the headstock and the size of the Gotoh body. That bothered me a little since they can move and not look right unless you get the shaft of the tuning key exactly perpendicular to the edge of the headstock. I thought about using a shim to fill the extra space.

A long picky rant, but just my experiences that may help someone! That brought me to the locking Gotohs but after your article I’m not sure if they’re for me either.

I believe the ones you have are the standard magnum lock. They offer them in HAP, HAP-A (which stands for angled headstock I believe) and HAP-M all on page 4 of the catalog. I wonder if the HAP-A would have a better locking system than what you experienced with the standard magnum lock?

Here's the Gotoh catalog
GOTOH2010.pdf - Windows Live

I found the SG381 with all the options available. The only problem is the site is in Japan.

SG381 - GOTOH - Machine Heads Web Store
  #8  
By op1e on 01-24-2011, 05:37 PM
The ones with the knobs behind the tuner, can those be turned to fine tune instead of the pegs? How does that work?
  #9  
By Born4metal85 on 02-06-2011, 07:25 AM
SCHALLER MINI really look like a sperzel =) I just ordered a planet waves....I love their appearance.....really interested about the weight...
  #10  
By MesaENGR412 on 02-12-2011, 10:39 PM
Great review man!

I have the Planet Waves tuners on both of my PRS SE Toreros. They work great and allow me to change strings on these Floyd Rose equipped guitars in about 10 minutes or less, completely tuned and everything. Normal, non-locking was about 15-20, with winding and string trimming. I didn't really notice that much of a weight difference on the headstock. It is there, but it doesn't make this guitar neck heavy. If you have an already neck heavy guitar (SG and ESP Viper come to mind), then this would not help. Tuning is rock solid, even though I still use the locking nut, these never slip even when the nut is not locked. Mainly got them for the locking and string cutting. Plus they look great IMO. Great product.

-AJH
  #11  
By TheSixthWheel on 02-17-2011, 08:30 PM
I believe another important thing to think about is the ratio of the tuners, as this can play a huge part in how accurate your tuning can be, how fast you can tune up to pitch and how the tuner mechanism itself feels. For people who don't know about tuner ratio, it's simply a matter of how many times you have to fully rotate the tuning button 360 degrees, for the tuning post to rotate once. You can imagine that a ratio of 18:1 will be slightly faster and easier to use (than 12:1, 15:1 or 16:1) because you get to make larger physical movements when tuning to pitch. Ever had tuners where you always end up going past the required pitch? You need a higher ratio tuner!

Hipshot - 18:1
Planet Waves Trim Lok - 18:1
Gotoh Magnum Lock - 16:1
Schaller M6 - 16:1
Sperzel - 12:1

Having only tried the bottom 3 types in that list, by favourites by a LONG way are the Schaller M6 locking tuner. That pinwheel is easy to grip, it's got a decent ratio and the overall feel of the mechanism itself feels smoother than all the others. German engineering I guess, they're just amazing tuners.

If Sperzels had a higher ratio, I'd use them on all my guitars. They're available in a bunch of different colours, heaps of different tuner button shapes, they're lightweight, they look great AND they're reversible which is handy as hell. Imagine not having to buy 4x3 tuners, just 7 of either side. It'd make buying 2nd hand or ordering online a breeze.
There is some confusion between some customers and distributors with which side is referred to as 'right' or 'left' when ordering sets of 3x3, 3x4/4x3 and 4x4. It's as you're looking at the guitar as its hanging on the wall - Left for bass side of headstock, right for treble side. So a Schecter Loomis would be 3 left/4 right.

For people in the market for locking tuners, make sure you research whether or not you'll have to modify your headstock in anyway in order for the tuner to fit. This means maybe having a different angled side screw, or maybe having no side screw at all, only the wood-crushing pin on the back of the tuner housing. Do your homework!
  #12  
By Xykhron on 12-01-2011, 10:51 AM
re-floating the thread: any of these locking tuners can handle 0.68 string gauge without drilling the post?
  #13  
By Sepultorture on 12-05-2011, 03:41 PM
None of them will fit that gauge, the mos tyou could fit would be a .60, and that's with some effort, anything above that and it will need to be drilled/filed
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